B2b agencies in 2009 faced their most challenging year in decades as they struggled through a recession and worked with clients that were cutting budgets and demanding improved ROI on their marketing programs.
Ad spending was down 14.7% for the first nine months of the year, according to Kantar Media (formerly TNS Media Intelligence). The final ad spending numbers for 2009 were still being tallied at press time.
While most advertisers cut their marketing budgets last year, they looked to their agency partners to provide not only effective marketing communications programs but higher-level strategic services.
The agencies that rose to the top worked with their clients to hone in on business objectives and craft marketing efforts to help them succeed in difficult times.
“In a recessionary environment, clients have challenges they need to address. They are really interested in agencies that not only want to talk about advertising or marketing but want to understand their business objectives and align marketing and communications against those objectives,” said Carl Anderson, CEO of Doremus, winner of the midsize category. “A lot of agencies still think of advertising and marketing as a primary focus, rather than what are the business objectives, particularly in this environment. One thing that has really paid off for us and our clients is that focus.”
Doremus picked up 10 new clients last year, including HP Enterprise Business, Office Depot, Peachtree by Sage and Quintiles, and it grew its revenue by 12% over 2008.
The agency developed targeted campaigns using innovative media programs, such as a campaign focused on “liquidity” for financial client Knight Capital, in which it placed a large Knight logo on the bottom of a swimming pool at a security traders' conference and set up water stations around the conference. It also invested in proprietary research and business intelligence, including its annual “Decision Dynamics” study of C-level executives and a new “Communications in Crisis” study about marketing in a recession.
Other agencies managed to grow, despite the recession, by maintaining a laser focus on their core businesses.
Chempetitive Group, a Chicago-based agency that focuses on the life sciences, increased its revenue by 56% over 2008 and picked up seven new clients, including BellBrook Laboratories, International Food Protection Training Institute, Organovo and TechniKrom.
“One of the things we've always done is to really focus on ROI for everything we do,” said Jeff Bergau, managing partner of Chempetitive, winner in the small agency category.
For example, Chempetitive developed a branding campaign for client Bio-Rad, which develops research and diagnostic equipment for life sciences companies. Using a mix of print ads, banner ads, microsites and trade show support, the agency created an integrated campaign that raised informed awareness of Bio-Rad by 5% during the first 10 months of the campaign, generated 5 million impressions and resulted in more than 150 qualified leads.
Successful agencies worked with their clients to raise the bar on the level of work they were creating, not only creatively but strategically.
“Last year, most businesses faced a lot of economic pressure and uncertainty. We had to make sure we were accountable to clients,” said John Osborn, president-CEO of BBDO New York, winner of the large agency category. “Most of the clients we deal with recognize that a tough business environment means it's time for businesses to get down to business.”
BBDO helped its clients develop integrated campaigns focusing on growth opportunities, such as “Innovation Today for America's Tomorrow” for client General Electric Co.; “Get a Monster Advantage” for Monster.com; and “1-2-3 Succeed” for FedEx Corp.
BBDO used new technologies, such as live-streaming HD feeds of GE engineers working, and a GPS-based iPhone app for FedEx, to reach target audiences.
Interactive agencies responded to the challenges of the recession by providing greater efficiencies and using newer technologies to address client needs.
“All clients were cutting budgets and were under pressure,” said Reuben Hendell, CEO of MRM Worldwide, New York, winner in the interactive category. “We really focused on deepening our relationships with clients and improving efficiencies.”
MRM rolled out a global work force collaboration system called MRM Works, and developed a new capability it called “search-infused content.”
“We recognized that, if we were going to be the most effective digital agency, then search—and specifically search-infused content for b2b marketers—is probably the most important capability you need to deliver effective results for clients,” Hendell said.
Other top interactive agencies, including Traction, San Francisco, and BusinessOnline, San Diego, expanded interactive capabilities such as social media, mobile marketing and analytics.
The following pages contain profiles of the leading agencies in each of the four categories recognized in this report: large, midsize, small and interactive.
WINNER: BBDO New York
RUNNER-UP: Ogilvy & Mather
MENTION: Euro RSCG
|HONORABLE MENTION: PJA Advertising+Marketing|
|WINNER: Chempetitive Group|
|RUNNER-UP: Schermer Kuehl|
|WINNER: MRM Worldwide|
HONORABLE MENTION: BusinessOnLine